The adventure starts with a voice. Coming in over what sounds like a loudspeaker, only muffled, lost in translation. Maybe it’s Houston calling, calmly going over last-minute instructions to the cockpit of a space shuttle that’s about to try out warp speed for the first time in history. Whoever it is, whatever they have to say won’t help now. It’s begun, the low end and ebbing synth cluster in the upper register setting the pace with an unrelenting forward motion. It is super-slo-mo and fast-forward at the same time, mounting with a calculated intensity and extreme velocity. If things were to stop suddenly, the results would be catastrophic. Injuries would mount. Our intrepid pilot might die. This doesn’t happen, but our hero isn’t out of the woods yet… The bass starts to throb. There is a malfunction. It is terrifying.
Thus is the possible plight of Jeff Stonehouse on a new 3-inch CD-R from New Zealand’s Twin Peaks-obsessed label, Cooper Cult. Some may be familiar with Stonehouse’ previous project, Listening Mirror. Others still, like myself, may have no real background on the music he’s created in the past. Those in either camp, however, should they have a taste for drone, will find something especially tasty in the below work of music, which is here presented in full for the first time. Cooper Cult tells us that only 50 of these little CDs were made. They were released unto the world about a week and a half ago, and a shorter excerpt from “Broken” has already been heard over 200 times at CC’s SoundCloud page… and this premiere already has a comment on it before we even had the chance to premiere it: “A m a z i n g !” In other words, you might want to act fast.
not 2 far away
One of the things that’s always fascinated me about “new age” music is how much of it really straddles the boundaries of taste. Look at the drone-heavy early work of Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze and it becomes apparent that there’s a very fine line separating these often wildly experimental recordings from their later forays into shiny synth bliss. One of the key elements that often accounts for taste with this genre of music lies solely in timbre. Daniel Lopatin once referred to this phenomenon as “timbral fascism,” meaning that certain sounds were often looked at as being off limits because of their associations. As a result, Lopatin and other like-minded artists made it their mission to recontextualize these sounds within the context of underground experimental music.
However, vaporwave took this idea of opening up the timbral world of 80s/90s schlock to a whole new level. The artists slowed down and looped samples of some of the most openly disliked genres of New Age muzak in such a way that it was impossible to ignore the sound world. The only thing you could do was give up and be completely swallowed in it.
One of the foremost vaporwave artists is the prolific Will Burnett a.k.a INTERNET CLUB, who has now evolved into Wakesleep. A few weeks ago, Wakesleep released his first album, and boy does it ever make this question of taste and timbre interesting. Like many vaporwave records, not 2 far away relies heavily on repetition, but in this case, the sound sources and timbres are not always readily apparent. It seems that Burnett often takes the smallest sample possible and lets it repeat/warp into oblivion. As a result, the audio becomes completely removed from its original context and these once saccharine sounds become rather austere, sometimes even abrasive. Couple that with some truly startling uses of space and the results sound more like Jim O’Rourke or Toshimaru Nakamura than Macintosh Plus, proving that even the most “outdated” sounds have the potential to jar a listener when slightly altered.
You can stream and/or download not 2 far away via the link below.
• Wakesleep: http://www.facebook.com/pages/INTERNET-CLUB-FOLLOWCHILLWAVEGANG
• Ailanthus: http://ailanthusrecordings.bandcamp.com
Let’s be frank: thus far we’ve only gotten what’s pretty much amounted to bits and scraps from the Brooklynite synth pop up-and-comer Empress Of, but oh, what sweet and delicious bits and scraps she’s been feeding us so far. From her upcoming EP, “Hat Trick” is only the third song released by Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez, and it’s definitely a continuation from “Champagne,” especially in the way it departs from the slow-burn, melancholic synths of her first single, “Don’t Tell Me,” and those cryptic, color-coded snippets of songs that were uploaded on YouTube a few months back. Rodriguez seems to be moving towards a more up-tempo pop sound, confidently employing a retro aesthetic where needed, and it seems we’re all the better for it.
Empress Of’s debut EP, Systems, will be out April 2nd on Terrible Records.
Guest Mix: Jar Moff
When Jar Moff dropped Commercial Mouth back in December, a short album preview soundtracked the release trailer. The video shot four minutes of audio across an assortment of subtitled TV drama, Rambo fight scenes, arm wrestles, and 80s hair loops. There’s an old chap talking on different color telephones; I think he’s gambling — he has a deck of cards and a small girl with him. The footage represented a lack of concentration, an affirmation of channel hopping or broadcast epilepsy, of having something to gawp at no matter what, a 2D technistatic plaything. The music not so much as accompanied this jamboree of daytime lowlights, but was embedded deep within it, picking up on the abstract scramble of content assorted in a standardized frequency pole vault.
Jar Moff is an artist from Athens, where he grew up, went to college, and befriended Bill Kouligas. Since then, he has deposited a compact batch of online mixes, released an EP on Mathewdavid’s Leaving Records, and hammered out a Grosskopf reworking for the RVNG Re-Synthesist project. Kouligas studied in London before moving on to Berlin where he established his PAN label and subsequently distributed Commercial Mouth. It’s a striking debut that flaunts the curiosity of an artist willing to crosshatch hip-hop, jazz, and noise with a bungled library of sounds and stylistic reference points.
patisiwn moutra is a sample-based mix that follows in the footsteps of Moff’s tried and tested sound collage formula. Whereas the 2012 Vimeo piece played into whatever role digital channel hopping might encompass in the home, this jam sounds a lot more personal, as though it has been carefully assembled for private playback. However, the disjointed edge it shares with the video encompasses a gaping insight into methods of consumption; it’s a musing on the average SoundCloud forage, ad hoc YouTube binge, and half-digested snippet fidget — it’s like a terabyte iPod shuffle compressed into 17 minutes of mashup that’s guided by an invisible human hand. Colin Stetson is sensually massaged into a cesspool of trigger clicks, ruffled beards, and heavy riffage, but the mix is so attentively executed that no gain could come from wryly name dropping the panoply of styles and effects that are tackled here. My suggestion is that you check this out for yourself; embrace the surge, open another dozen tabs on your browser, click every hyperlink in sight, and seep into Jar Moff’s manic caress.
The New Life
Belfast’s Girls Names put out a solid debut of shoegaze guitar-fueled jangle pop back in 2011, which also hinted at an appreciation of the darker side of post-punk, as was especially evident on the video for their song “Bury Me.” Two years later, on their sophomore return effort titled The New Life, the band can be heard having made a somewhat unexpected departure from past material towards a minimally-inspired dream pop and early goth rock sound; rest assured, though, as judging by the album stream made available by Slumberland, it could turn out to be more than a welcome departure. Their new sound exhibits a more disciplined confidence and maturity, even as they stake out and explore new musical territories.
Much in the way debut Dead To Me demonstrated a thorough grasp of the indie pop and shoegaze genres, The New Life effectively elicits the darker sounds of the early to mid-80s coming out of the UK. The opening pedal echoes of album highlight “Hypnotic Regression” themselves echo those which characterized the proto-shoegaze duo of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding of The Chameleons, before morphing into the driving post-post punk of The Comsat Angels or The Mission. Elsewhere, “Pitura Infamante” mines the more dance-pop stylings commonly found in the mid-80s, when even bands like The Lords of the New Church and March Violets displayed a potent New Wave influence, and the title track recalls the minimalist restraint, yet evocative power of Adrian Borland’s The Sound.
Listen to the entire album over at Slumberland’s SoundCloud.